Biography – James Lithgow


James Lithgow

Height 5′ 9 1/4″
Sallow complexion
Brown hair
Hazel eyes
Full face
Body middling to stout
Tatoo A.B., man right arm,
crucifix left arm
Cut left eyebrow [84]

James Lithgow (aka Lithgoe), was born c1831 in Liverpool, England. He was the son of James, a shipwright, and Isabella (nee McCollister). [94]He fought in the Crimea war, but in a general court martial at Sebastapol, was found guilty of “desertion” and his transportation sentence was made “for life”. He arrived in Western Australia on the 1st January 1858 aboard the Nile as convict No. 4641. Records show he was semi literate, Protestant and a sawyer by trade. [95]In 1859, whilst a convict and stationed at Chauncey’s Station No. 3, James was a trial witness in a court case. John Cameron, Private in the Royal Engineers, had been charged with stealing 900 feet of sawn timber. During his testimony James explains the circumstances of why he was tried for desertion and transported to Australia for life.

“I have been eighteen months in the colony. I came by the Nile. … I have been a soldier of the 47th Regiment, was in the Crimea during the whole of the war. I was taken prisoner by the Russians at Balaklava, after the battle of Inkermann. I was taken to Feronis about 250 *versts from Sebastopol. I was allowed to go freely about that town; from there I was sent back and exchanged at Odessa, when I went back to my regiment before Sebastopol; this was after peace had been proclaimed. I was taken into custody and tried by court martial for desertion from the British Army to the Russian service, and transported for life.”

“… I did not break my allegiance. I did not desert. When I was taken prisoner it was very bad weather, and we had not tents to put our heads in. I was under fire at the Alma, Balaklava, and Inkermann.” [90]

Was there a miscarriage of justice? Who knows what really happens during the bloody and confusing theatres of war.

Between 1862-1877 James Lithgow employed six ticket of leave sawyers on occasions at Ferguson which is in the south west of Western Australia (about a 2 hour drive south from Perth). [87]

During those years his name was to also appear several times in local newspapers and once in the Police Gazette.

APRIL 4, 1862

“E.P. Powell, free, assaulting J. Lithgow fined 6s.” [89]

3rd October 1862

“James Lithgow and Y. Bullock, t.l.’s., were charged with a breach of the Ticket of leave Regulations, in proceeding to Fremantle on pass, without having first reported themselves at the Police Station; fined 10s.” [91]

MARCH 17, 1871

“James Lithgow, t.l., charged by Corpl. Ryan with stealing certain property from the premises of S. Clough; twelve months hard labor. James Lithgow, t.l., charged by Corpl. Ryan with a breach of the ticket of leave regulations; dismissed.” [98]

MARCH 27, 1874

“Frederick Cole was charged by PC Claffey, with being drunk, and assaulting him in the execution of his duty and also with rescuing a prisoner named Lithgoe. Prisoner stated that he and his mate Lithgoe were proceeding homewards and stopped to have a rest when the constable came up and ordered them off in a very rude and peremptory manner, and attempted to take his mate into custody. The prisoner thereupon interfered, and the result was, he was pounced upon by the constable, as if he had committed some dreadful crime. Neither himself nor his mate was molesting any person, or creating any disturbance whatever. Mr. A. LeeSteere, who happened to enter the Court at this stage of the proceedings, stated that he witnessed part of the proceedings referred to, and that he considered the constable behaved in a very rough manner towards the prisoner. His Worship observed that if men who may have partaken too freely of drink, were proceeding homewards, quietly, and without offering to molest the public or create a nuisance, they should be allowed to pass unheeded by the police. According to Mr. LeeSteere’s statement too much zeal had been shown by p c. Claffey, who had but very lately joined the force. It was, however, proved and admitted, and the prisoner must pay a fine of 20s., or be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for 1 month. Prisoner declined to pay the fine and elected to undergo the imprisonment.”

“James Lithgoe, charged with being drunk in Adelaide Terrace, in company with Cole, as named in the preceding case, was fined 5s., or, in default 14 days imprisonment. The fine was paid.” [93]

OCTOBER 24, 1874.

“James Lithgow, a sawyer, was brought up on a warrant obtained by Mr. David A. Gray of this city, builder and contractor, for breach of contract; and with unlawfully obtaining from him cash and rations to the amount of £16 odd. Mr. Gray stated that he did not wish to press the charge too much, al though the prisoner bad behaved very bad cutting timber under the license he had paid for, and selling the timber which he had sawn, to other parties, but which was in fact his (the complainants). In order to give both parties an opportunity of settling the matter out of court, his worship remanded the further hearing of the case for 8 days, informing the prisoner at the same time, he was liable to 8 months imprisonment if proved guilty.” [88]

November 1876

JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641, and JAMES HANNEN, exp., late 8306, by P.C. J. Hogan, at the Serpentine; charged on warrant issued at Bunbury, on 13th inst., with deserting from the service of Hyam L. Lipschitz, at the Ferguson, on 10th inst.

JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641, and JAMES HANNEN, exp., late 8306; discharged at Bunbury Police Court, on 28th ult., at request of prosecutor. [101]

At some point within the next five years James travelled to the North West of Western Australia. The Christmas of 1879 must have been memorable one as he stole some brandy – an expensive brandy for him as it turns out. He was sentenced to a month of hard labour. This event was recorded in the Police Gazette dated 18th February 1880:

“JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641, middling stout, age 56, 5ft. llin. high, grey hair, grey eyes, long visage, sallow complexion; stealing a quantity of brandy, at Lewis Island, on the 24th December, 1879. Dated Roebourne, 3rd January, 1880. Vide Apprehensions.”

“Vide Warrants Issued. JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641, at Hampton Harbor, N.W.C, on the 11th ult., by P.C. Claffey.”

JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641; charged at Roebourne, on 14th January, and sentenced to one month h.l.

Just a couple of months later we read in the Police Gazette dated 5th May 1880:

JAMES LITHGOW, exp., late 4641, at Cossack, on 25th March, by P.C. Armitage; stealing a quantity of timber, the property of the Local Government. One month h.l. Property recovered.

Yet again, James appears in the Police Gazette dated 18th February 1883; obviously he had not a lot to do.

JAMES LITHGOW, at Roebourne, on the 19th ult., by P.C. Eatch; disorderly; also being a loose, idle, disorderly person. 1 month h.l.

Sometime after 1885 he returned to the south of the State. Whilst at Chidlows Well in 1887, he inexplicably made his first statement to police in which he alleged to being present at the murders of Anketell and Burrup. To read more about James Lithgow’s statements go to the Police File page and read the various entries there.

We last hear of James Lithgow in the following newspaper article of 1898. He was now about 67 years. It seems he had given away the hard work of a sawyer and had become an orderly at the Mt Eliza Depot, an institution for destitute men. During a Commission of Enquiry into the running of the Mt Eliza Depot, James Lithgow gave evidence to support its Master, Mr J.P. Wade, who ran that institution:

10th August 1898

“James Lithgow said that he had been an orderly in the institution. He had never known any cases of ill-treatment or neglect at the institution. So far as he had seen, Mr. Wade had treated the sick men properly. He was attentive when he visited the wards.” [92]

In 1906, Claremont Old Men’s Home, (later to be known as Sunset Hospital), was built to replace the Mt Eliza Depot. After working as an orderly, James retired. As his name does not appear in The Western Australian Post Office Directories dating from 1893 I assume he spent his final years residing at the Mt Eliza Depot and finally the Old Men’s Home in Claremont. It was in that later residence that he died on the 15th November 1909 of heart disease. He was aged 78 years and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery. According to his Death Certificate he never married or had children. [94]


* A “verst” (Russian versta, верста) is an obsolete Russian Unit of Length. A verst is equal to 1.0668 kilometres.